ravens-hl.jpg
Getty Images

Halfway through the NFL season, the picture has started to become clearer about which teams will be contenders for the Super Bowl title. The Philadelphia Eagles (8-0), Minnesota Vikings (7-1), Kansas City Chiefs (6-2), Dallas Cowboys (6-2), Buffalo Bills (6-3), Baltimore Ravens (6-3), and Miami Dolphins (6-3) certainly belong in that conversation. 

What about the New York Giants (6-2) or the New York Jets (6-3)? The Los Angeles Chargers (5-3) or the Cincinnati Bengals (5-4)? At the very worst, these teams are setting themselves up to make the postseason and make a potential playoff run of their own. 

As the league enters the second half of the season, the chase for the playoffs, division title races, and home-field advantage comes into focus. Teams will be looking at their schedules and their path toward playing late into January. 

Let's take a look at 20 contenders for playoff spots at this point in the season. Only teams with four or more wins are considered, unless a team is one game out of the division race -- like the New Orleans Saints at 3-6. 

Before we begin the exercise, let's look back at the strength of schedule for every team through the first half of the season. 

Strength of schedule for each team through Week 9

TeamCombined record of opponents facedWin percentage

Lions

45-24

.652

Steelers

43-26

.623

Cardinals

43-33

.566

Ravens

44-34

.564

Bears

42-33-1

.553

Packers 

43-35

.551

Bills

37-31

.544

Dolphins

42-36

.538

Commanders

40-35-1

.526

Jaguars

33-31-3

.517

Cowboys

35-33

.514

Jets

39-38

.506

Browns

35-35

.500

Saints

39-40

.494

Bengals

38-40

.487

Giants

34-36

.486

Chiefs

32-34-1

.478

Texans

32-34-1

.478

Titans

31-33-3

.470

Rams

31-35

.470

Colts

35-40-1

.461

Vikings

32-38

.457

Buccaneers

35-42

.455

Panthers

35-42

.455

Falcons

35-42

.455

Broncos

30-36-1

.448

49ers

30-38

.441

Seahawks

33-43

.434

Raiders

29-37-1

.433

Patriots

34-44-1

.430

Chargers

28-38-1

.418

Eagles

28-38-1

.418

As for those 20 contenders? Here's who has the easiest schedule the rest of the way -- ranked from easiest to hardest -- along with the key games remaining. 

1. Ravens

  • Combined record of remaining opponents: 24-44 (.353)
  • Strength of Schedule rank: 32nd
  • Division/conference rank: 1st in AFC North/3rd in AFC
  • Key game(s) remaining: Week 18 at Bengals (5-4)

The Ravens play just one team with a winning record coming out of the bye week, the Bengals in Week 18. They have seven straight games against teams with losing records. 

2. Falcons

  • Combined record of remaining opponents: 27-44 (.380)
  • SOS rank: 31st
  • Division/conference rank: 2nd in NFC South/8th in NFC
  • Key game(s) remaining: Week 12 at Commanders (4-5), Week 15 at Saints (3-6), Week 16 at Ravens (6-3), Week 18 vs. Buccaneers (4-5)

The Falcons are tied with the Buccaneers for first place in the NFC South (Buccaneers have the tiebreaker). There are opportunities to stay alive in the playoff race. 

3. Chiefs

  • Combined record of remaining opponents: 31-43-1 (.420)
  • SOS rank: 30th
  • Division/conference rank: 1st in AFC West/2nd in AFC
  • Key game(s) remaining: Week 11 at Chargers (5-3), Week 13 at Bengals (5-4), Week 16 vs. Seahawks (6-3)

The Chiefs are in a good position to take over home-field advantage in the AFC with their schedule, with six games against under-.500 teams remaining. The road games against the Chargers and Bengals will be tough. 

4. Buccaneers

  • Combined record of remaining opponents: 30-40 (.429)
  • SOS rank: 29th
  • Division/conference rank: 1st in NFC South/4th in NFC
  • Key game(s) remaining: Week 10 vs. Seahawks (6-3), Week 14 at 49ers (4-4), Week 15 vs. Bengals (5-4), Week 18 at Falcons (4-5)

The Buccaneers have a path to the NFC South title, facing five teams with losing records -- including three straight to close out the year. The Seahawks and Bengals are their toughest matchups. 

5. Seahawks 

  • Combined record of remaining opponents: 30-37 (.448)
  • SOS rank: t-25th
  • Division/conference rank: 1st in NFC West/3rd in NFC
  • Key game(s) remaining: Week 10 at Buccaneers (4-5), Week 15 vs. 49ers (4-4), Week 16 at Chiefs (6-2), Week 17 vs. Jets (6-3)

The Seahawks must run a gauntlet from Week 15 through 17, facing teams with a combined 16-9 record. That stretch could determine the NFC West. 

6. Saints

  • Combined record of remaining opponents: 30-37 (.448)
  • SOS rank: t-25th
  • Division/conference rank: 3rd in NFC South/12th in NFC
  • Key game(s) remaining: Week 13 at Buccaneers (4-5), Week 15 vs. Falcons (4-5)

The Saints are only playoff contenders because they're in the NFC South and sit one game out of the division lead. Their division games against the Buccaneers and Falcons are the most important games.

7. 49ers

  • Combined record of remaining opponents: 36-43 (.456)
  • SOS rank: 24th
  • Division/conference rank: 2nd in NFC West/7th in NFC
  • Key game(s) remaining: Week 10 vs. Chargers (5-3), Week 13 vs. Dolphins (6-3), Week 15 at Seahawks (6-3), 

The 49ers do have a tougher schedule than it appears on paper. Week 13 through 16 consists of the Dolphins, Buccaneers, Seahawks, and Commanders. That should decide the NFC West -- and maybe their playoff fate. 

8. Chargers

  • Combined record of remaining opponents: 35-39-1 (.473)
  • SOS rank: 23rd
  • Division/conference rank: 2nd in AFC West/7th in AFC
  • Key game(s) remaining: Week 10 at 49ers (4-4), Week 11 vs. Chiefs (6-2), Week 14 vs. Dolphins (6-3), Week 15 vs. Titans (5-3)

The Chargers face a stretch of tough games into December, but end the year against three teams with sub-.500 records. A Week 17 game against the Rams may be a trap game. 

9. Rams

  • Combined record of remaining opponents: 37-40 (.481)
  • SOS rank: 20th
  • Division/conference rank: 3rd in NFC West/10th in NFC
  • Key game(s) remaining: Week 12 at Chiefs (6-2), Week 13 vs. Seahawks (6-3), Week 17 at Chargers (5-3), Week 18 at Seahawks (6-3)

The Rams are going to have to sweep the Seahawks to get back in the NFC West race. They're already 2.5 games out of the division. 

10. Titans

  • Combined record of remaining opponents: 37-38-1 (.493)
  • SOS rank: 19th
  • Division/conference rank: 1st in AFC South/4th in AFC
  • Key game(s) remaining: Week 12 vs. Bengals (5-4), Week 13 at Eagles (8-0), Week 15 at Chargers (5-3), Week 17 vs. Cowboys (6-2)

The Titans have a tough schedule, but they are running away with the AFC South. These games will determine their playoff seeding in a tight race for home-field advantage. 

11. Dolphins

  • Combined record of remaining opponents: 33-33-1 (.500)
  • SOS rank: 16th
  • Division/conference rank: 3rd in AFC East/6th in AFC
  • Key game(s) remaining: Week 13 at 49ers (4-4), Week 14 at Chargers (5-3), Week 15 at Bills (6-2), Week 17 at Patriots (5-4), Week 18 vs. Jets (6-3)

The Dolphins have a difficult schedule to close out the year, facing five teams currently with winning records in their final six weeks. This is a product of every team in the AFC East being over .500 through nine weeks. 

12. Eagles

  • Combined record of remaining opponents: 39-37-1 (.513)
  • SOS rank: 14th
  • Division/conference rank: 1st in NFC East/1st in NFC
  • Key game(s) remaining: Week 13 vs. Titans (5-3), Week 14 at Giants (6-2), Week 16 at Cowboys (6-2), Week 18 vs. Giants (6-2)

The Eagles have command of the NFC East with a two-game lead and are searching for home-field advantage in the NFC. Their toughest games are against their own division in the final five weeks, although the Titans will be a tough matchup as well. The Eagles are the last remaining unbeaten team. 

13. Vikings

  • Combined record of remaining opponents: 40-36-1 (.526)
  • SOS rank: 13th
  • Division/conference rank: 1st in NFC North/2nd in NFC
  • Key game(s) remaining: Week 10 at Bills (6-2), Week 11 vs. Cowboys (6-2), Week 12 vs. Patriots (5-4), Week 13 vs. Jets (6-3), Week 16 vs. Giants (6-2)

The Vikings are up 4.5 games up on the NFC North, but have a rough schedule coming up. In the next four games, the Vikings' opponents are a combined 23-11. This may be their shot at home-field advantage -- or to stay in the race. 

14. Bills

  • Combined record of remaining opponents: 42-36 (.538)
  • SOS rank: 12th
  • Division/conference rank: 1st in AFC East/1st in AFC
  • Key game(s) remaining: Week 10 vs. Vikings (7-1), Week 13 at Patriots (5-4), Week 14 vs. Jets (6-3), Week 15 vs. Dolphins (6-3), Week 17 at Bengals (5-4), Week 18 vs. Patriots (5-4)

The Bills play a tough schedule the rest of the way, including three consecutive games against the AFC East. With just a half game lead in the division, Buffalo's AFC East -- and potential home-field advantage fate -- could be determined here. 

15. Cowboys

  • Combined record of remaining opponents: 40-34-2 (.539)
  • SOS rank: 11th
  • Division/conference rank: 2nd in NFC East/5th in NFC
  • Key game(s) remaining: Week 11 at Vikings (7-1), Week 12 vs. Giants (6-2), Week 16 at Eagles (8-0), Week 17 at Titans (5-3)

The Cowboys are two games behind the Eagles in the NFC East race, and have a tough schedule coming up in a few weeks. The Vikings and Giants games are in a span of five days. 

16. Jets

  • Combined record of remaining opponents: 38-31 (.551)
  • SOS rank: 10th
  • Division/conference rank: 2nd in AFC East/5th in AFC
  • Key game(s) remaining: Week 11 at Patriots (5-4), Week 13 at Vikings (7-1), Week 14 at Bills (6-2), Week 17 at Seahawks (6-3), Week 18 at Dolphins (6-3)

The Jets are seeking their first playoff berth since 2010, but have a tough stretch of games in the second half. They have five games against teams over .500 of their eight games left. 

17. Bengals

  • Combined record of remaining opponents: 37-30 (.552)
  • SOS rank: 9th
  • Division/conference rank: 2nd in AFC North/9th in AFC
  • Key game(s) remaining: Week 12 at Titans (5-3), Week 13 vs. Chiefs (6-2), Week 16 at Patriots (5-4), Week 17 vs. Bills (6-2), Week 18 vs. Ravens (6-3)

The Bengals have a brutal stretch of games to close out the season, against teams that are a combined 17-9. The first-place schedule for 2022 is taking its toll on this talented roster. 

18. Giants

  • Combined record of remaining opponents: 43-30-2 (.587)
  • SOS rank: 4th
  • Division/conference rank: 3rd in NFC East/6th in NFC
  • Key game(s) remaining: Week 12 at Cowboys (6-2), Week 14 at Eagles (8-0), Week 16 at Vikings (7-1), Week 18 vs. Eagles (8-0)

If the Ginats are going to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016, they'll have to survive the brutal NFC East -- and a matchup against the Vikings as well. Playing the Eagles twice makes this schedule much more daunting. 

19. Commanders

  • Combined record of remaining opponents: 38-26-1 (.592)
  • SOS rank: 3rd
  • Division/conference rank: 4th in NFC East/9th in NFC
  • Key game(s) remaining: Week 10 at Eagles (8-0), Week 13 at Giants (6-2), Week 15 vs. GIants (6-2), Week 16 at 49ers (4-4), Week 18 vs. Cowboys (6-2)

The Commanders have a tough road ahead in order to make the playoffs, essentially making the Eagles game in Week 10 a must-win in order to keep pace with the 49ers for the final playoff spot. Four more games against the NFC East is brutal. 

20. Patriots 

  • Combined record of remaining opponents: 41-27 (.603)
  • SOS rank: 2nd
  • Division/conference rank: 4th in AFC East/38th in AFC
  • Key game(s) remaining: Week 11 vs. Jets (6-3), Week 12 at Vikings (7-1), Week 13 vs. Bills (6-2), Week 16 vs. Bengals (5-4), Week 17 vs. Dolphins (6-3), Week 18 at Bills (6-2).

The Patriots have the most brutal schedule amongst the contenders, with six of their last eight games against teams over .500. If New England makes the playoffs, they will have earned their spot.